Bali has a wealth of ‘monkey forests’ and a while back, I took a trip to probably the most famous, the Sanggeh Monkey Forest (Bukit Sari).
Getting to Sanggeh Monkey Forest from Kuta, you could take the Sunset Rd to Kerobokan, then head up to Sempidi, Kapal, Mengwi, Abeansemal and then hit Sanggeh. The drive is 21 km from Denpasar, and Sanggeh is NW of Ubud. The parts of the route are on minor roads, so you might have to ask directions, if you run into one of those famous 3 or 4 way junctions, when the map says 2-way.
Close to Sanggeh, you will pass a temple called Pura Dalem Hyangsoka. You might remember from an older article, that each village has 3 temples (Pura Puseh, the temple of origin, Pura Desa, the village temple and the Pura Dalem, temple of the dead). When I visited, there were small groups of women, carrying large bantens of offerings on their heads. These bantens an assortment of fruits and rice cakes. They are built around a central skeleton of the trunk of a young banana tree. During a temple ceremony, offerings are left at the temple for a while, the family who made them, are allowed to take them home and eat the contents.
A lady who owned the road side shop, told me the ceremony was the odalan, and that accounted for the temple ceremonies. An odalan is the anniversary celebration of a temple. The odalan will be held either every 210 days if following the wuku calender or 365 following the saka calender, and lasts for 3 days.
The hope of the community, is that the Gods will come down to Earth and observe the devoted villagers entertaining and worshipping. The procession that I observed was the start to the day’s events, and the offerings was received by the village priest (pemangku), before ceremonies begin.
Sanggeh Monkey Forest is hard to miss, with temple structures close to the street, a parking area across from it. Outside in the parking area, locals try their best to sell t-shirts and drinks, while others get on with making canang (offerings). Admission is 3,000rp, which entitles you to wander around, checking out the forest, the monkeys and the temple. The Balinese believe that Hanuman, the monkey king, tried to kill an enemy called Rawana, by crushing him between the 2 halves of Gunung Meru. A piece of the mountain landed on Earth and the monkeys have been the guardians ever since. The temple was built in the 17th century.
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Staff at Sanggeh Monkey Forest, wear co-ordinated Balinese clothing, and one of them followed me around, until I asked him to stop. “I will protect you against aggressive monkeys.” he said. The forest is quite small in area, but has some huge nutmeg trees, which can reach 40m in height. A curving footpath takes you though the forest and around the main footpath again. You can do this walk in 15 minutes.
I did see some small monkeys on the main footpath, but they were not aggressive, neither were the ones in the forest. Guides will tell you to watch your hat and glasses which is a good idea. I took mine off and put them in my bag.
The center piece of Sanggeh Monkey Forest is Pura Bukit Sari, a lovely atmospheric place, which like most of Bali’s temples, is deserted most of the year, apart from the tourists. I am not an expert on temples but did notice one strange thing, 2 kul kul (drum towers). The towers are used to ritually summon members of the banjar, and usually the kul kul tower is placed in the kelod end of the temple.
Visitors are not permitted to enter the candi bentar (split gate) which marks the entrance to the temple. I simply snapped a few shots over the gate. My guide book said that Sanggeh Monkey Forest is best visited late in the afternoon to avoid crowds. I was the only customer at 3pm so I felt special.
The attendants said Sanggeh Monkey Forest opens in the morning at 7am. It closes when there are no more people.
I thought the place was impressive for the size of the trees and the coolness of the temple. The monkeys were rather tame.
Sanggeh Monkey Forest
•What is it?
A large forested piece of land, with a central temple and population of macaque monkeys.
•Where is it?
Located in Sanggeh, a few kilometers NW of Ubud.
•Driving time from Kuta?
1 hour to 90 minutes, deprending on traffic, your navigation skills and how long you spend looking at other stuff.
•Best time to go?
Any time of year, late afternoon.
Guides, toilets, souvenirs shops across the street, drink / snack shops, parking.
•Who is Sanggeh Monkey Forest good for?
Families, kids, people who enjoy visiting temples, people who want a fun pitstop on a roadtrip.
•Who is Sanggeh Monkey Forest not good for?
People who are not interested in temples, people who do not like monkeys.
•Who is Sanggeh Monkey Forest good for?
Dangers & Annoyances:
Monkeys can occassionally be aggressive, and try to grab personal items such as sunglasses, hats etc.